It was muggy. Players were leaning on each other, coming out, trying to work out cramps.
In a survival of the fittest Thursday night, Peoria Centennial overcame a quick 14-0 deficit and turned to its secret weapon at the end to outlast Scottsdale Saguaro 41-21 at what felt like a swampland at Glendale Community College.
An afternoon monsoon left field conditions soggy and raised the humidity several notches.
But Centennial (1-1) finally got to quarterback Kare Lyles in the second quarter and turned linebacker John Rincon loose at running back in the fourth quarter while nursing a 28-21 lead.
Making his first appearance of the season on offense to give Quentin Gomez a breather, Rincon ran straight ahead for an 8-yard gain, then showed what he really can do carrying defenders into the end zone on the last 10 yards for a 34-yard touchdown with 7:17 left.
“We always knew he could be a running back,” coach Richard Taylor said. “Tonight, we needed him. It was brutal out there. The heat. He was really excited. It was an important, meaningful run, and he sure did something with it.”
After the 13-12 loss to Southern California power Long Beach Poly, Centennial still looked like it was recovering in the first seven minutes, falling behind 14-0.
Saguaro (1-1), which had its 28-game winning streak snapped, called a play action on its first play and Byron Murphy got behind the secondary for a 45-yard score.
Stone Matthews tore off a long run the next time Saguaro had the ball before finishing off a five-play drive with a 6-yard scoring run.
Lyles would later stake with Murphy again on a 52-yard TD after Centennial had tied it 14-14.
David McGriff’s 35-yard punt return set up Isaac Steele’s 5-yard TD pass to Marcel Perez and the teams were tied at the half.
Murphy missed a few series in the second half on offense and defense, while being administered for cramps and dehydration, and Centennial’s big line just wore on Saguaro.
“We made too many mistakes in the first half to overcome them,” Saguaro coach Jason Mohns said. “We played well enough in the first half to have a two touchdowns lead. Instead it was a tied game. Too many turnovers.”
Centennial’s vaunted pass rush, led by Chris Jules, took over in the second quarter.
Under duress, Lyles was intercepted can by defensive tackle Steven Bailey and lost a fumble.
Centennial held Saguaro scoreless in the second half, keeping it a horizontal game for Saguaro, snuffing out any outside game.
“We made a lot of adjustments at halftime on offense and defense,” said Steele, who had two rushing scores. “We just wore them down.”